carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

Warriors need more from bench to compete with top-tier teams

Mark Jackson criticized his bench after the Warriors’ near-perfect win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

He expressed disappointment with their lack of discipline on defense, their inability to execute the offense and how they handled the basketball during garbage time in the fourth quarter.

“I’m not happy at all with it,” Jackson said. “They’ve got to [be] better.”

With the additions of Andre Iguodala and a healthy Andrew Bogut, the Warriors’ starting five is capable of hanging with any team in the Western Conference right now. Through eight games, the Warriors (5-3) are outscoring opponents by 60 points when Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Iguodala and Bogut are together on the floor.

But if Jackson’s squad is going to make the jump into the NBA’s top tier this season and compete for a conference title with teams such as the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, who are rolling into Oracle Arena tonight, Jackson’s bench will need to be better — much, much better.

While the Warriors are blowing teams away with their starting five, the bench is backsliding without free-agent departures Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, and Festus Ezeli, who is out with a knee injury. Harrison Barnes should be a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, but if you take one starter off the court, the Warriors are only beating opponents by two points right now.

The lack of depth is most glaring in the post.

Last season, when Lee, the team’s first All-Star since 1997, went down with a hip flexor tear in the playoffs, the Warriors survived and advanced to the second round thanks to Landry and Ezeli.

The Warriors didn’t need the big men to replicate Lee’s offensive production to beat the Denver Nuggets. They just had to play solid defense, crash the boards and make smart decisions with the basketball.

But when Lee ran into foul trouble against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, the loss was insurmountable. With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol down low, the Grizzlies outscored the Warriors 30-6 in the paint during the second half of a game the Warriors lost by 18 points.

Of course, the Warriors struggled to contain the Grizzlies’ inside game last year, too, but if they want to bang with the big boys, they need to be adding depth down low rather than thinning it out.

Right now, Jackson’s post options off the bench are limited with an aging Jermaine O’Neal, an undersized Draymond Green, an inexperienced Ognjen Kuzmic and an underskilled Marreese Speights.

If something happens to Bogut or Lee, the Warriors are in trouble.

The picture looks somewhat brighter in the backcourt with Toney Douglas, who’s currently injured but scored 21 points when Curry was sideline against the Spurs, and first-round pick Nemanja Nedovic, who has the potential to replace Jack’s production with some refinement.

Still, without Curry’s ability to draw the defense, the Warriors failed to score a basket in the final 2:23 against the Spurs, spoiling a stellar defensive performance.

Here’s the good news: Ezeli should rejoin the team in the spring and Nedovic could blossom into an explosive guard. But the Warriors can’t depend on their production this season, which means they might still be year or so away from taking the next step and competing for a Western Conference title.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.Golden State WarriorsJermaine O’NealPaul Gackle

Just Posted

The Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street was one of many hotels that took in homeless people as part of The City’s shelter-in-place hotel program during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Closing hotels could disconnect hundreds from critical health care services

‘That baseline of humanity and dignity goes a long way’

Pachama, a Bay Area startup, is using technology to study forests and harness the carbon-consuming power of trees. (Courtesy Agustina Perretta/Pachama)
Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controvers during the pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said retail thefts in The City are underreported crimes. (Daniel Montes/Bay City News)
S.F. unveils initiative to tackle rise in retail thefts

Incidents are not victimless crimes, mayor says

Most Read